Quick – Pass Me A Rubik’s Cube!

I’m not sure how many people who know me would classify me as a pessimist but – whether it’s attributable to increasing maturity or a career dicing with the rudiments of Murphy’s Law – I do find myself assuming the worst in certain situations.

I also don’t want to milk the blown-tyre saga reported upon previously, but blow-me-down and shiver-me-timbers, I really do want to record the sequence of events which put us back on the road again.

People more in-the-know than I advised that a spare-wheel-tyre which had lain exposed and unattended beneath our trusty Knumptywagen for as long as we’d owned it (not to mention how long it might have languished there under previous ownership) may have, in effect, passed its sell-by date. As such, it wasn’t advisable to be doing a lot more miles than was strictly necessary on it, since – if it decided its time had also come and expired beneath us on the next leg of our trip – then we really would be up a creek without a paddle.

Although our own little region of plateau’d Lost World Austria boasted much in the way of 21st century conveniences, a tyre- specialist wasn’t one of them – and so we aimed ourselves as directly as possible towards the next major town on our route – Villach, just before we crossed into the lesser-known environs of Slovenia.

Google had adjudged Villach to possess a tyre-specialist such as we might require and we dutifully therefore arrived – into the middle of a particularly agreeable, modern industrial estate – to find the dealer closed for lunch until 1pm. Well, we considered that a fine result, since it was a mere 10 minutes before re-opening and there was a Hofer grocery store (Austrian Aldi) where our former hosts had suggested we could acquire very decent Merlot at a bargain price, so we killed a few enjoyable minutes there stocking up our meagre travelling cellar*

As the doors were opened, we rolled our blown tyre proudly into the reception area, to be met with blank stares and a language barrier – and after some minor gesticulation and furrowed brows, Computer Said No. But Lady Behind Counter Instead Pointed. In fact, gesturing enthusiastically in the direction of the Hofer from where we’d just come, she typed the name of another tyre-specialist into the Quartermaster’s proffered phone, from where Google again stepped up and directed us back across Hofer’s car-park – quite literally – into another tyre-specialist’s car-park – not 500 yards from where we’d started.

Young German lad at counter lapses into English at our approach (are we really THAT obvious?) and delightfully, HIS Computer Says Yes! “About an hour?” he says, quoting a price comparable with the UK, so yes please, young man, and please may we gnaw your arm off as it’s lunchtime and we haven’t even had our full-English yet. “Is there anywhere we could get some lunch?” we enquire and he points, backwards across Hofer’s car-park again and simply says “Italian”.

Hand over the keys, wave goodbye to the Knumptywagen and off we amble, across the car-park in the searing Mad Dog heat, and wander about looking for a sandwich bar or transport caff which might provide a snack or a sandwich.

Slightly bemused by the lack of specific directions, we guess on a route and within another 500 yards, we come across a full-blown Italian restaurant; with cheery, bright-red canopied frontage providing welcome shade across the pavement; potted shrubs and greenery screening gingham-clothed tables; a buzz of atmospheric lunch-time conversation; several smart-looking cars in the car-park alongside which a couple of slick, linen-shirted business-types were clearly sealing a deal; a classically-attired waiter greeting us in a selection of languages (ha, obviously not as astute as the Tyre-Guy) and yes, a table is available for us – would we prefer inside or out? Well, forgive me, but WTF? We’re in the middle of an industrial estate, ferchrissake! How is this happening to us? (And why hasn’t Tamworth come up with a similar concept?)

And to top it all, you’d be really, really, really hard-pressed to match the calibre of our lunch in some of London’s smartest nightspots! Cockles, clams, shrimp and fresh fish served up in an intense fresh tomato and basil sauce; a basket of fresh, seeded breads plus a huge bowl of dressed-mixed-side-salad, all presented with a smile and a flourish.

At some point this afternoon, we will wake-up! Until then, we might as well continue living the dream as the sun continued to shine and as we took the obligatory photos to record the moment, I realised we could actually SEE the tyre-depot down the road in the distance. Paying our exceptionally reasonable bill, we ambled back, a little beyond our allocated hour, replete and probably now reeking of garlic, where the Knumptywagen stood silently sentinel, proudly boasting a brand new tyre – for which we even gained 2 cents change from the quoted price.

OK – so they hadn’t quite managed to work out how to sling the spare-wheel back under the van but they had put it in its own tyre-bag for onward transportation and – as those of you who also know me will again realise – I do like a little technical challenge every now and then.

This wondrous sequence of events throughout the day (and, as it turns out, yet further into our journeyings) had seen Murphy well and truly off the premises and left us with an optimistic spring both in our step and our suspension – so in our current state of optimistic euphoria, you’d better pass me that abominable and irresolvable Rubik’s Cube – today we can do ANYTHING!

*Literary license: we don’t actually have a wine cellar in the Knumptywagen, OK?

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